After couch crashing at a few of my mother's friends we eventually found our way back to Fred's house. To my horror Bird Bird was not there. Fred told me that he had given him away to a friend who was going to take good care of him till me and my mom had a place to live. I suspected he was lying, but it hurt too much to think otherwise. I had bigger problems than a pet bird to worry about, no matter how much I loved him.
I was worried about getting to school and I was worried about what we were going to eat. I didn't know if tomorrow we would end up some place I wouldn't be able to take a bath, or if I would have an opportunity to wash our clothes. Fred and my mother were no longer together and it was made clear to us that we could not stay there long.
As Fred and my mother watched T.V., I stared down at my hands and thought about all the things an 11 year old shouldn't have to worry about. "Mom.... mom! We should wash our clothes.... hello! Earth to Susan!" I let out an exaggerated sigh and walked out to the back yard. After a while Fred walked out and gave me a good look over. A few seconds later he said, "You know... you're a good kid. Don't worry so much though... Things are going to be OK." I looked at him like he was the biggest idiot I had ever seen.
"How are things going to be OK!?" I yelled and then I started crying... The only thing that I could think about right then was our laundry. I couldn't think past clean clothes. It was too hard.... It was too much. "I... want... her... to... clean... our... clothes." I said in between sobs. My tearful request sounded ridiculous even to me... Who cries over dirty laundry? My tears weren't over dirty laundry, but I couldn't admit this... I wasn't strong enough. Miss Kitty was wrong. I'm not strong... I can't even clean our clothes without crying like a baby!
Fred knew why I was crying... and he opened his arms to me. I let him hug me and then we sat down on the back porch. Fred apologized to me. "I know I did a lot of wrong things, I hope one day you will understand all this... I'm sorry, you know that don't you?" I didn't know how to feel about this or what to say. There was a long silent pause in our conversation and then he took his hand and scuffed up the hair on my head, "OK, go play Turd Knocker."
The clothes did get cleaned and I fell asleep on the loft thinking about Little Joe. Fred said him and his mom were coming over tomorrow. I hadn't seen Little Joe for about a year and couldn't wait to see him! The next day I put on my nicest pair of blue jeans and brushed my hair every 15 minutes while I waited for them.
When his mom's car pulled up I ran to the bathroom, straightened my clothes and put on my cherry flavored lip-gloss. When I was satisfied with myself I went to go back out to the front room and I was just about to turn the corner into the living room when I heard Fred say, "Oh she's in the bathroom, she heard you were here Joe and ran in there to brush her hair! Ha Ha Ha" I was mortified! I walked out in the living room anyway. My face felt hot and my heart was beating right in my throat. Joe took one look at me and smiled. "Let's go out to the backyard."
I sat on the swing and he told me about how for the past year he wasn't even living with his mom. He said he lived with his friend and his friend's parents. He told me about how he was into motor cross now and was going to be a racecar driver. He had his hair gelled into spikes and had grown about three inches. He was so tall! I was infatuated. He asked me if I wanted to go with him and his sister to the creek that day and I eagerly agreed.
We spent the afternoon holding hands at the creek. We sat down awkwardly with his hand behind my back in what was supposed to be a comfortable embrace. He even let me sit on his shirt when we decided to take a break from hiking around so I wouldn't get dirty. He helped me across the rocky trails and once when I fell, he picked me up and sat me on a log to examine my scratched knee.
Later that night back at Fred's, Little Joe and me sat together on the loft. Fred and my mom were arguing in the back bedroom and Little Joe reached over and just held my hand. I didn't want to let go. I felt like if Little Joe was with me... that maybe I could do the laundry without crying. I wasn't alone. Joe kissed me that night. It was just an innocent little peck, but it made me feel loved. I wanted so badly to be loved.